Becoming a carer is a huge step and a huge responsibility. When someone gets too sick to live on their own, there are serious choices to be made. If you want to be a carer, then you’re already courageous and incredibly thoughtful for considering it. But before you make that decision, there are some things you need to think of.
Whether or not you should do it
Becoming a caregiver is by no means easy. It can be a 24-hour, all week, each month, year-long commitment. It means tremendous sacrifice on the part of the carer for rewards that are rarely tangible. There are many who cannot reasonably deal with the strain of being a carer. This isn’t a sign of lacking the love or fortitude. It simply does not come to some as well as it does to offer. As you read the rest of this article, consider this question seriously. Can you be a carer? Services like www.hc-care-homes.co.uk/ exist to help out those who can’t. Trained professionals are well equipped to look after your loved ones even if you’re unable to. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t, feel good that you get them help anyway. Now, if you decide you should do it, there are plenty more points to consider.
The legal steps
Becoming a carer does not always just mean spending your time looking after your loved ones. That the practical summary of it, but there are legal steps you should make as well. If the one you’re caring for suffers from mental or memory diseases, you need to do these. It includes gaining power of attorney to make decisions like finance, housing, benefits and matters of estate. It can also include becoming a health care proxy. Some people cannot be expected to understand and consent to treatment. In these cases, if you aren’t legally a healthcare proxy, the decision could fall solely to the doctor. In most cases, you will want to follow their advice, but you should have the option to decide your loved one’s best interest. DNR’s are another important legal decision you may have to make on the behalf of those under your care.
Caregiving does not only take up a lot of your time, but it can also have very real financial implications. Many carers live in financial difficulty. Sometimes this is because they don’t understand the aid available to them. In other cases, that aid isn’t enough. This is part of why power of attorney is important. If those under your care can’t make the decision to use what finances they have, you should be able to use it to best care for them. You should also be aware of the assistance available, as www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/ suggests. Depending on where you live, you can get access to things like Carer’s Allowance or a Carer Premium. Look to helplines and resources online that can make things easier for you as well. There is assistance on offer if you’re willing to look for it.
The care plan
When you start caring for someone, you need to lay out plans of all the duties you’re going to take care of. Make sure you lay out everything that you should expect your ward is unable to do for themselves. This helps you know how many hours of care your loved one will need a day. This includes understanding their medication and ensuring they get everything recommended by their doctor. It also includes the basic needs of using the toilet, grooming and bathing. Plan and prepare food preparation carefully. Proper nutrition grows increasingly important with age so take with their meals and prepare them well. You may also need to take care of maintaining their home, transferring them from bed to chair and transporting them to where they need to go. But try not to forget the importance of companionship through these duties. Older people can get lonely so try make your company a reassuring presence.
Hygiene is key
As we age, our immune systems may become worse for wear. This may go double for those with illnesses or medication that further compromise their immune system. It’s incredibly important that your personal hygiene be a key concern when you’re caring for an older person. The home is an important place to start for this. Maintain their home well and make sure you clean diligently when you’re done with preparing food. When you use the bathroom, ensure you follow all the important practices of bathroom hygiene as well. Always close a lid after you flush to limit germ spreading. After you or your ward have used the toilet, avoid touching anything in the bathroom after washing your hands. Particularly if you’re coming into the home from having used a public toilet. Any towels used for drying hands should be washed every other day, too.
Our immune systems aren’t the only part of us that grow weaker as we grow older. Accidents and injuries that were once easily shaken off soon become serious concerns for sustained bodily harm. Mobility can be lost and a lot of pain can follow. So do everything you can to make your loved one’s environment as safe for them as it can be. Make sure they have an emergency alert system in their home like a life alert pendant. Get rid of any loose rugs or tripping hazards. If they use the shower or toilet without you, consider installing safety bars to help them get up or down with ease. Also make sure they have a telephone near their bed and usual seat. You may not have to always be there for them, but you should rest assured that they can operate somewhat independently of you.
It’s no secret that we see less levels of activity from our loved ones as they grow older. However, that doesn’t mean that we should allow them to become completely inactive. Besides the fact that it’s worse for their health, a lot of the loneliness and frustration older people suffer can be caused by restlessness. Do everything you can to help them get some more activity into their life. It can mean taking them to and from somewhere they can indulge in a hobby or meet friends. It can mean doing light exercises with them to give them some activity in the day. It may take some time to find what your ward is able to do and what they can’t. But helping them stay fit can do wonders and allow them to remain more independent for further into their future.
Agitation and aggression
Caring for people with illnesses like Alzheimer’s or dementia takes an extra dose of courage, patience and care. One of the hardest parts of it is coping with the changes of character in our loved ones and the loss of memories including who you might be. These illnesses can be scary for us and are doubly so for those suffering from them. This is one of the primary reasons that agitation and aggression arise in our wards. It can also be due to discomfort or pain they are unable to properly communicate. Conflicting behaviour from our wards can be shocking, but preparing for it can help you better deal with it. www.alzheimers.org.uk indicates some of the best ways to cope with aggressive behaviour. Try to stay calm and breathe before you react. Reasoning is not likely to have any effect so do your best to avoid any heated responses or shows of fear or anxiety. Maintain eye contact and communicate calmly that you are on their side. Weather them through it and focus on assuring them after the incident.
Dealing with emergencies
There may be times that emergencies arise that are well beyond your capacity as a carer. It’s important that you have all the right means and information for contacting who you need to. Any doctors and specialists should be memorised onto your phone. Using an emergency bracelet can help your loved ones get help when you’re not there as well. Plan for an emergency situation by having a piece of paper with all the important facts in one place. This includes the information for the one you care for, their medicines and what they eat and drink. Keep this in a safe place in the unlikely event that you are involved in an accident. Don’t let your loved one suffer if you’re unable to help them.
Dealing with yourself
Even if you find yourself willing and able to take care of another, make sure to take care of yourself. Caregiver’s stress is a very real, documented and understandable thing. Few carers think themselves weak or bad people for suffering from it, given the demanding nature of what they do. Accept help when you can and be realistic about the help you provide. Get connected with support groups and social support. Take care of your own physical health, too, by setting health goals and visiting the doctor more regularly.